Obama May Create Earth's Biggest Ocean Sanctuary
Would use executive authority to expand Bush-created monument
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Jun 17, 2014 7:28 AM CDT
Updated Jun 17, 2014 7:59 AM CDT
In this photo released by US Fish and Wildlife Service, butterfly fish swim near the Johnston Atoll, one of seven islands strung along the equator in the central Pacific Ocean.   (AP Photo/NOAA, Jean Kenyon)

(Newser) – In 2009, President Bush created an 87,000-square-mile marine sanctuary in the Pacific. Now, his successor wants to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to 782,000 miles, a move that would double the area of protected ocean worldwide, the Washington Post reports. The marine sanctuary would be the world's biggest, surrounding seven US islands and atolls and stretching into waters up to 200 nautical miles off their coasts. President Obama is due to announce the proposal today; after a public comment period designed in part to "fully understand the commercial activity out there," he would use his executive powers to make it a reality later this year.

Among the upsides: The number of underwater mountains being protected would increase five-fold, and five types of threatened sea turtles would be handed a safe haven. It would also safeguard what one National Geographic explorer-in-residence calls "the closest thing I've seen to the pristine ocean." But not all groups are likely to be pleased: The protections would ban energy exploration and fishing, and the region is responsible for some 3% of US-caught tuna in the western and central Pacific, the Post notes. Bush allowed sport fishing to continue in the area when he established the initial monument, and tuna fishermen are likely to raise opposition. Republicans are already doing so: "It’s another example of this imperial presidency,” says House natural resources chair Doc Hastings.

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Jun 20, 2014 8:04 AM CDT
How in the world does he find time between golf dates? Is this a bait and switch to take the heat off him for doing such a poor job as prez? He doesn't have time to get to the bottom of all his scandals while the Middle East is burning.
Jun 17, 2014 9:44 PM CDT
Doc Hastings and the republicans need to STFU and let Barack do something right for once! Must read: http://therainforestsite.greatergood.com/clickToGive/trs/petition/DOW-HastingsBills
Jeff Haugan
Jun 17, 2014 8:58 PM CDT
That's not doubling it, that's almost 10 times the size.